Ruth Suberu is a graduate of History and International Relations from Lagos State University, Lagos. She started cultivating maize and cassava in 2016 before she began the vegetable farm Ogun State.
In this episode of our Women in Agriculture, Ms Seburu shares an interesting experience
PT: Can you put us through your journey in agriculture?
Ms Suberu: During my secondary school days, I loved agriculture but I ended up studying History and International Relations at the university. After graduation, I worked with some construction firms where I worked as a secretary. I was not enjoying the job, it was just a routine thing so there was no fun. I decided to try agriculture, I started sourcing for land and I got land. I started farming with cassava and maize, they did not grow well but I was determined not to work for anyone so I started making research but I was harvesting maize in three months and cassava in one year. In between when I’m not harvesting how do I earn a living? So during another research, I came across a training, I registered for it and attended it; after the training, I started growing vegetables.
PT: Before you started the farm, how were you able to raise capital?
Ms Suberu: When I resigned from the construction firm, I had some savings, the land then for an acre was N7000, I got cassava stem and I started. Then the vegetable farm, the only thing I needed was vegetable seeds and a source of water. The profit I got from the farm, I was reinvesting. I was making little progress.
PT: You mentioned leasing land and largely, owning land for women is difficult, did you go by yourself or did you go through a man?
Ms Suberu: I spoke to a friend who helped me to contact someone, so I got the land and I went there to pay for it myself. I don’t think there is an issue for a woman to own land, I think it depends on parties that are involved.
PT: The land you lease, what are their sizes?
Ms Seburu: I have about 16 acres of land and they are all on lease. The payment is not fixed, you have to negotiate with the owner.
PT: Insecurity is the elephant in the room, can you tell us how it has affected your business?
Ms Suberu: Presently, I have not had any challenge of insecurity but I am very careful and conscious of my environment. Herders have not attacked my farm.
PT: The vegetable seeds you plant, how do you get them knowing that there are different methods to get seeds?
Ms Suberu: For pepper, I do the extraction on my own, I preserve it and sell to other farmers but for other vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and so on, I buy from seed importers.
PT: Farming is a thing and marketing or selling is another thing, are there available markets for your produce?
Ms Suberu: I go through middlemen when I have in bulk, I move the produce to Lagos markets, like Mile 12, I take to them. But recently I discovered it’s better I sell in nearby markets considering logistics, it is a general market. I take it to Ibadan.
PT: How would you describe being a woman in agriculture, having in mind your age and the challenges?
Ms Suberu: I feel so proud being a farmer, I am passionate about it, it’s not about gender, it’s about what you love to do and the opportunity you have and your passion for it. I am not a social person, so I dedicate my time to my farm. I rarely go to parties.
PT: Being a woman do you employ people on your farm?
Ms Suberu: I employ people on the farm. I have six workers and they are respectful people. Once they see me, they know it’s serious business.
PT: What would you say your basic challenges are?
Ms Suberu: Well, the first one is capital and human labour. It is difficult to get people to work on the farm because most people want white-collar jobs. Most of these works that need human labour can be mechanised. The capital constraint makes it worse for me to even afford any machine. So I have to keep sourcing for human labour.
PT: Do you belong to any farmers association, some say it is a form of breakthrough for them?
Ms Suberu: Yes I belonged to a cooperative ( Adeniyi Cooperative Society), it is a farmer cooperative. Before I joined, some persons benefitted from the government through it.
PT: You complained of labour and machines on your farm, do you use machines on your farm at all?
Ms Suberu: Yes, I do.
PT: If you are given an opportunity to voice out your wants or needs concerning your farm, what would that be?
Ms Suberu: I need farm inputs and machinery. I don’t really need money. I need what will make my business successful.
PT: Family is everything, the care, the love, and support can keep you going. Can you tell us about your family, how they support you and how it has impacted your business?
Ms Suberu: My family doesn’t support me, they don’t believe in what I’m doing, they see me as someone who is suffering in the jungle so I just do my own thing.
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